The City that is Ending Hunger

WHAT IF, ALONGSIDE freedom of religion and speech, food security was in the Bill of Rights? In Belo Horizonte, a city of over 2 million in southeastern Brazil, access to adequate quantity and quality of food has become a right of citizenship.
This initiative stems from a simple, yet still revolutionary, idea—that hunger is not caused by scarcity. Rather, hunger is caused by a lack of access to food, usually associated with poverty.

Before the program began in 1993, one-fifth of the city's youngest children suffered from malnourishment. Today, while infant mortality rates as a whole have fallen by only 7 percent in Brazil, those rates have decreased by 41 percent in Belo Horizonte.
“Food is not a material commodity,” argues Adriana Aranha, director of Belo Horizonte's Hunger Program, in the documentary Silent Killer, which aired on public television stations in the fall of 2005. “It is as essential as the air we need to breathe. If people don't eat they don't live.”

Belo Horizonte's programs, which cost the city less than 1 percent of its budget, take a multi-pronged approach. By cutting out the middlemen and linking producers directly with consumers, small farmers earn higher prices while urban customers get good quality at a lower price. The city offers farmers prime retail locations at cut-rate costs, with the agreement that the produce will be sold at half the retail price.

Using its power as an institutional buyer, the government purchases directly from area farmers and distributes the food as nutrionally-enriched flour, public school meals, and the Restaurante Popular, a government-run cafeteria offering affordable meals to more than 5,000 people a day. In addition, the program offers information to the public on nutrition and pricing. Twice a week, the city publishes the price of 45 basic food and household items available at 40 different supermarkets.

“I knew we had so much hunger in the world,” said Aranha in an interview with Anna and Francis Moore Lappé for their 2002 book Hope's Edge. “But what is so upsetting, what I didn't know when I started this, is it's so easy. It's so easy to end it.”
No Paywall. No Ads. Just Readers Like You.
You can help fund powerful stories to light the way forward.
Donate Now.